Pubdate: Fri, 20 Nov 2015
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Ed Gogek
Note: Dr. Ed Gogek is an addiction psychiatrist and author of 
"Marijuana Debunked: A handbook for parents, pundits and politicians 
who want to know the case against legalization."


There might be no better example of the malevolent power of money in 
politics than the marijuana pro-legalization movement. Funded by 
billionaires who get their way by spending so heavily they drown out 
other voices, it wields the sort of unfair influence Vermont Sen. 
Bernie Sanders was speaking of on "Face the Nation" when he said, 
"The power of money over the political process is horrendous."

However, Sanders said that in September and now supports the 
legalization of marijuana, which means he's siding with one of the 
moneyed interests he excoriates.

Sanders should find it outrageous that the ultra-rich could buy a new 
drug policy. Instead, he endorses it. He just introduced legislation 
that would allow state decisions on marijuana to stand.

Advocates present legalization as inevitable, but marijuana 
initiatives have won only when proponents vastly outspent the other 
side. In Washington state, the pro-legalization side spent $5 million 
compared with only $16,000 for opponents. That's a 300-to-1 
advantage, and $2 million of it came from one marijuanasmoking 
billionaire, the late Peter Lewis, former CEO of Progressive Insurance.

Lewis almost single-handedly funded the Massachusetts medical 
marijuana campaign; he donated 94 percent of its operating budget, 
enabling them to outspend opponents by nearly 50 to 1. He effectively 
bought that election.

This should offend Sanders, who told "Face the Nation" that "American 
democracy is not about billionaires buying elections." But he never 
seems to criticize marijuana billionaires.

George Soros has spent about $25 million to legalize marijuana. In 
1996, he and five other wealthy businessmen provided three-fourths of 
the financing for California's Proposition 215, the nation's first 
medical marijuana law. Supporters couldn't gather enough signatures 
to get it on the ballot, so Soros and his friends rescued the measure.

Soros and Lewis were major donors to the Drug Policy Alliance and 
Marijuana Policy Project, America's two main pro-legalization groups. 
Without these organizations, the U.S. would have no medical marijuana 
or legalization laws.

Sanders even supported Ohio's legalization measure that would have 
created a marijuana monopoly for 10 businessmen who chipped in $2 
million each. It was such a blatant case of business interests using 
the political process for gain that a lot of marijuana advocates 
voted against it, yet Sanders supported it.

In fairness, Hillary Rodham Clinton is also probably prolegalization. 
Her PACs accepted $2 million from Soros, and she still says she wants 
to wait and see what happens in the legalization states.

But Sanders is running to stop the wealthy from buying elections. He 
says so in nearly every speech. His campaign website denounces 
"powerful special interests [who] have poured money into our 
political system for years." But the candidate whose No. 1 issue is 
getting money out of politics apparently doesn't mind when it's marijuana money.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom